Friday, June 1, 2007
A very important post about.... getting the hell away from all of you
Starting this morning, my wife and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in grand style -- going on vacation for five days and four nights to a small Caribbean isle that will remain anonymous. The children will not be accompanying us, as their grandmothers will be here to take care of them.
None of you will be coming either.
So,until my return, here's a few links that should be worthy of comment... in descending order of seriousness:
1) In the next issue of Foreign Affairs, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have articles articulating their foreign policy visions. Go check them out. I'll be particularly curious to see just how much overlap there is between them.That is all.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
My self-promotion cup runneth over
A few links by or about your humble blogger that I've been remiss in mentioning:
1) In the Fletcher newsletter, Timothy R. Homan profiles me, my blog, and my hatred of cellphones going of in class.Well, that should be sufficient overexposure for a few days.
A new global warming initiative, or just more hot air?
The Financial Times' Andrew Ward reports that with the G8 summit approaching, the Bush administration is contemplating a new initiative to combat global warming.
President George W. Bush on Thursday committed the US for the first time to take part in negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto treaty and agreed to set goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.The Washington Post's William Branigin and Juliet Eilperin add more reportage, suggesting that this won't be as big a policy shift as the Europeans would like:
The administration's plan involves cutting tariff barriers to the sharing of environmental technology and holding a series of meetings, starting this fall, on ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions by an agreed amount by about 2050. Bush wants this target to be set by the end of 2008.Here's the key portion from Bush's actual speech:
So my proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.Will this amount to anything? The Economist is skeptical, observing that, "Even the G8 members that are enthusiastically embracing ambitious targets are struggling to cut their emissions."
That said, if Bush can even convince China and India to attend this proposed meeting, he'll have achieved a significant political victory. Why? Because by their very attendance, China and India will be implicitly acknowledging that they are part of the global warming problem.
Their other option is to embrace the OxFam solution to the problem, which concludes that, "the USA, European Union, Japan, Canada, and Australia should contribute over 95 per cent of the finance needed. This finance must not be counted towards meeting the UN-agreed target of 0.7 per cent for aid."
I predict that the G8 will agree to this plan at roughly the same time John Bolton is elected to be the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Not your father's Yankees... or your older brother's, for that matter
At last night's Yankees-Blue Jays game, Alex Rodroguez, on the basepaths, may or may not have yelled "Mine!" during a routine pop-up, leading to an error.
More amusing than whether A-Rod bent the unwritten rules is the reaction of Yankee fans. Exhibit A:
Look, I wish I could offer more lofty sentiments, but let’s be honest. At this point in the Yankees’ season, if getting an actual win requires A-Rod to screw thirteen transvestite prostitutes, on a pile of corked bats, in front of Babe Ruth’s plaque in Monument Park? Fine.
Blogging as an intervening variable for stupidity
Jonathan Saltzman has a front-pager in the Boston Globe about an unusual court case in which blogging factored into the denouement:
It was a Perry Mason moment updated for the Internet age.Saltzman suggests that thiscase is indicative of how blogs can impact, you know, real life. And there's a grain of truth to this charge. Reading on, however, one begins to wonder if blogs are not the cause per se, but rather one of many enablers for people with poor impulse control:
Lindeman, a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, is board-certified in general pediatrics and pediatric pulmonary medicine, according to the Natick Pediatrics website.So, lessons learned:
1) If you're a defendant in a court case, try not to blog about it;More blog reaction from Suburban Guerilla, Michael Froomkin, and HubBlog.
[Might there be more of a correlation than you're letting on? Perhaps people with poor impulse control are more likely to blog?--ed. There's something to this, but blogs are merely one of many new forms of personal expression available to people. If the blog is not the outlet, perhaps the MySpace page, or the podcast, or the YouTube moment will be. Still, I leave this possibility to commenters -- who clearly have no problems with impulse control.]
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Lou Dobbs is a big fat liar
The most common complaint about him, at least from other journalists, is that his program combines factual reporting with editorializing. But I think this misses the point. Americans, as a rule, are smart enough to handle a program that mixes opinion and facts. The problem with Mr. Dobbs is that he mixes opinion and untruths. He is the heir to the nativist tradition that has long used fiction and conspiracy theories as a weapon against the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Jews and, now, the Mexicans.[What if Dobbs relied on political science research instead?--ed.] He would find even less empirical support.
The farm lobby is cracking up, the New York Times is beating up on Lou Dobbs.... oh, I'm going to enjoy this summer.
UPDATE: Dobbs responds to Leonhardt here. As near as I can interpret it, Dobbs concedes the facts but claims Leonhardt is exaggerating their portent. Then there's this puzzler:
[T]he columnist writes that I suggested that new immigration reform bill would be the first step to a North American union. Nope. What I did say is that the proposed legislation, favored by President Bush and Senator Kennedy and others who are misguided, contains language in Section 413 that, if approved by Congress, would endorse and legitimize the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which is the foundation of this administration's efforts to create a North American union, and which would further threaten, in my opinion, our national sovereignty.I checked out the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America's website. The front page has yet to update the fact that Vicente Fox is no longer president of Mexico. A good rule of thumb: organizations with outdated web sites aren't threats to national sovereignty.
Here's a link to the SPP "myths vs. facts" page. If Dobbs is scared by this initiative, then he should really just go and buy his shack in Montana right now -- because there are dozens of other arrangements already on the books where the U.S. has ceded more sovereignty.
I hereby triple-dog-dare Lou Dobbs and his supporters -- name me one provision of the SPP that truly compromises American sovereignty.
Short-shorts, Jello wrestling, and a good word about Tom Friedman
Topics include: MySpace vs. the workplace, our favorite subways, the libertarian preference for president, Hugo Chavez, and unmitigated delight at the farm lobby's demise.
[Ahem, the title promised Jello wrestling and short shorts!!--ed. Oh, those are there -- but you'll have to watch the whole thing to find them.]
The occasional squeaks you will hear in the background? That would be my two-year old daughter, who is 98% cute and 2% pure concentrated evil.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I'm a bad, bad man....
... for thinking that this picture brings sexy back way better than Justin Timberlake.
An incentive puzzle on education
College graduates earn more than high-school graduates, and that premium is a lot bigger than it was 20 years ago. There are numerous reasons but one might be that after rising for most of the postwar period, the share of the work force with college degrees stopped growing, constricting supply just as demand for highly skilled workers took off.The failure to respond to incentives is, well, puzzling.
It could just be a statistical hiccup. Another possible half-assed blog explanation, drawn strictly from casual empiricism: the decline is due to a greater number of high school graduates taking a year off before entering college. There is a swath of upper middle-class kids who are either working or backpacking for a year instead of heading straight to school. But I have no idea about the magnitude of this trend.
Alternatives are solicited from readers.
On the optimistic side of cautious optimism
George W. Bush will put forward former US Trade Representative and Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick to become the next president of the World Bank. The FT's Krishna Guha and Eoin Callan report on the reactions:
Hank Paulson, the US treasury secretary, said he recommended Mr Zoellick to the White House following consultations with the bank’s other shareholder governments. Mr Paulson told the Financial Times: “Bob Zoellick is someone who has a passion for development. He has trust, respect and support from all the regions of the world.”I've heard this last concern voiced by others in the know. To wich I'd say the following:
1) Having seen and interacted with Zoellick in the past month, he strikes me as being on the calmer side of the DC heavyweight spectrum. He's smart, he knows he's smart, and he does not suffer fools gladly. By beltway standards, however, abrasive does not spring to mind.Brad DeLong is pessimistic:
If Robert Zoellick had not served the Bush administration without distinction as Special Trade Representative and as Deputy Secretary of State, I would be enthusiastic about his World Bank President candidacy. But the fact that he has done nothing in his last two government jobs makes me wonder whether an alternative candidate should be found.In the past, I've disagreed with DeLong about Zoellick on precisely this point. He's a thoroughly competent man who has served a thoroughly incompetent administration. When Zoellick served in a competent administration, he accomplished only some minor things -- like helping to reunify Germany.
Actually, by moving to the bank, Zoellick will provide an ideal "natural experiment" to test out Brad and my takes on him. So I extend the following challenge to DeLong: if, in three years time, Zoellick is judged as having been successful by, say, Ken Rogoff, William Easterly, and Dani Rodrik, DeLong will owe me 100 units of Special Drawing Rights. If they judge him a failure, I'll pay DeLong.
A DVD extra for World News Tonight
If you watch ABC's World News Tonight tonight, there's a 50-50 shot I'll be in a story about President Bush's decision to impose additional sanctions against Sudan for its actions in Darfur. The point I tried to get across -- sanctions are unlikely to work in this instance because (in increasing order of importance:
1) The United States doesn't a large economic relationship with Sudan, and with pre-existing sanctions in place, there's not much left to cut off;We'll see how well this gets communicated in seven seconds.
Here's some info that won't be in the story: whenever news networks do these stories, there's always a "b-roll" in which they show the professor walking across campus or working at his computer, etc.
I bring this up because if they show that footage tonight, I was typing this very sentence!!!!!
Exciting behind-the-scenese stuff, eh?
UPDATE: The good news is that I did indeed appear in the story. The bad news is that the b-roll did not. Curses!!
Monday, May 28, 2007
Hugo Chavez vs. the telenovela
According to CNN International, Hugo Chávez has declared war on yet another facet of Venezuelan life:
Venezuela's most-watched television station -- and outlet for the political opposition -- went off the air after the government refused to renew its broadcast license.In a war between Hugo Chavez and the telenovela, I'll take the telenovela every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Never mess with an art form that is capable of producing the likes of Salma Hayek.
In the Guardian, Ben Whitford goes to town on Chávez 's decision:
Chávez and his officials unilaterally branded the network coup-mongers and pornographers - the latter apparently a reference to the trashy but popular telenovelas that are standard fare on all the region's networks. No investigations, meetings or hearings were held to assess the station's failings; no evidence was presented, and the network was given no right of reply.
That's right, I'm risking the wrath of the baseball gods
I've been holding off on the baseball posting for the first two months of the season, because, well, it's the first two months of the season. With Memorial Day weekend, however, comes a quick glance at the standings, and hey, what do you know, the Red Sox have an 11 1/2 game lead in the AL East and a 12 1/2 game lead over the Yankees.
Longtime Red Sox fans will recall 1978, in which the Red Sox frittered away an even larger cushion. However, over at Baseball Busings, David Pinto thinks history is unlikely to repeat itself:
Sure, nothing is set yet, but a big difference between now and 1978 is that New York was a lot of games back, but they were still a winning team. Today, the Yankees are much closer to Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Texas than they are to either Boston or wild card leader Detroit.I'm a tad more wary than David: if you look at runs scored and runs against, the Yankees should have a better record than they do (UPDATE: In a later post, David re-evaluates his own position). And, for the record, the Red Sox ain't a .700 team either. With the wild card, the Yankees still have a fair-to-middlin' chance of making the playoffs (just like the Red Sox in 2004). The difference is that the Yankees can't experience another stretch like the past two weeks, or their season is done.
Fortunately for the Olde Towne Team, many of the intangibles have been going in the Red Sox direction:
1) Yankee manager Joe Torre has lost his magic touch at right around the same time that Terry Francona acquired greater quantities of management acumen. Now a lot of this is luck, but some of it is Francona managing the bullpen better than Torre.Those last two points highlight the real reason the Red Sox are doing so well -- they have a more good, young pitching at their disposal and in the pipeline.
The best long-term news, however, is contained in this AP story:
Despite constant speculation about manager Joe Torre's job, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner says someone else also needs to deliver as the team looks to reverse its floundering start: general manager Brian Cashman.Please, please, pretty please with sugar on top, let George fire Cashman. He's made some short-term mistakes as GM (I believe Cashman is officially the only person in the known universe who believed that Carl Pavano would be healthy all season -- and this includes Pavano). Long-term, however, he's started to restock the farm system and shed grumpy old ballplayers. The best thing that could happen to the long-term plans of the Red Sox is if Steinbrenner fires Cashman in favor of a Steinbrenner toady. At that point, I bet you that the new GM would trade Philip Hughes, Jose Tabata, and Melky Cabrera for Johan Santana.
In which case, there will be seven fat years for the Sox, and seven lean years for the Yankees.